Kaldor City: Occam's Razor
Reviewed by Steve Buchannon
At *last*, someone's made an audio drama that unleashes
the potential of the medium. Magic Bullet Productions live up to their
name - Occam's Razor is a high powered head shot, hitting the listener straight
between the eyes and leaving their brain a gooey mess.
Although it spins off from characters and ideas in Doctor Who and Blake's 7, this isn't some turgid retro nightmare. This is a very modern drama, casting off any TV heritage and using the audio medium to create the sonic equivalent of 'windscreen'. It has an epic feel.
On audio the voices carry the story, and luckily Kaldor City has a selection of distinctive actors in the lead roles. Russell Hunter is by far my favourite - as Uvanov he delivers every line with relish. Uvanov is always scheming, often desperate, deeply unsympathetic but strangely appealing. While Uvanov tears up the speakers, Carnell is on the opposite end of the emotional scale, played with glacial superiority by Scott Fredericks. In between these two is Kaston Iago - Paul Darrow - on top ruthless form as a computer expert and killer who wanders into Kaldor City and finds himself embroiled in a series of violent deaths. Iago is a Clint Eastwood figure - the mysterious stranger who wanders into town with a gun in his hand - and whose own motives are perhaps unknowable.
Backing up the leads are an excellent supporting cast - of particular note are Trevor Cooper and Brian Croucher as dumb and even dumber security men respectively, and Peter Miles as Uvanov's obnoxious rival, Landerchild. It's an irrelevant point, but it is worth noting that all the Voc robots sound perfectly correct as well!
I won't give away the plot - it's too much fun listening to the twists unfold for me to spoil them in a review. Suffice to say this is one of the tightest scripts I've ever heard - the plot is carefully developed, with information and characterisation revealed to the listener in the course of the story without recourse to info dumping dialogue. There are some very funny jokes, and plenty of action to keep the plot moving, including some spectacular set pieces.
Audio drama tends to err towards being overtly 'talky', for fear of failing to portray physical action comprehensibly. But the production for Occam's Razor conquers this fear admirably, providing us with shoot-outs and explosions, all executed with a dazzling array of sound effects - guns are pulled from racks on an Armoured Personnel Carrier, the boots of the security team stomp the ground, bursts of gunfire tear through the air and shell cases clatter on the ground. We're never uncertain of what is going on, Alistair Lock's superb production creates a detailed and clear soundscape that brings Kaldor City to life.
Unlike a lot of products, which take spinning off from existing characters and situations as a starting point, Occam's Razor stands up as a powerful drama in its own right. It has wit, drama, action and character. I can't wait for Story 2.